By Ignatius Okorocha
Senate on Tuesday urged the Federal Government to suspend the planned increase in electricity tariff due to take effect from July, given the increased hardship Nigerians are going through occasioned by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The upper chamber also commended the Federal Government for the proactive initiative to establish the N1.7 trillion Covid-19 crisis intervention fund to cater for critical issues on effective management of Covid -19.
It also called on federal government via Ministry of Finance to include the Nigeria Electric Power Sector in the disbursement of proposed N1.7trillon Covid-19 intervention crisis fund.
Senate resolution is sequel to the adoption of a motion sponsored by Sen. Gabriel Suswam (PDP Benue) on Power Sector Recovery Plan and Impact of Covid-19 pandemic.
Suswam, while leading debate on the general principles of the bill said the stable and uninterrupted power supply was also a critical factor in the management of Covid-19 pandemic patients at the designated isolation and treatment centres across the country.
He said uninterrupted electricity was also key in the proposed upgrade of health facilities and in the manufacturing sectors of the economy.
The lawmaker also said if the negative impact of Covid-19 on the sector continues without any emergency financial intervention from federal government, Distribution Companies (DisCos) may not meet their remmitances obligations to the electricity market.
He further noted that the financial obligations of Generating Companies (GenCos) and Gas to power suppliers would also be negatively impacted.
Following the massive contributions of senators on the motion ,the upper chamber mandated its Committee on Power to investigate all federal government interventions in the power sector since privatisation of the sector to date and report back in four weeks.
It also mandated the committee to investigate activities of all market participants in the sector.
The Red Chamber further urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to allow operators in the sector access to foreign exchange for procurement of equipment and materials as it is obtainable for the aviation and oil industry.
It also urged federal government to consider additional tarrif support to cushion effect of shock over a fixed period to allow Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and DisCos to access funds.
Senate noted the funds would help operators implement their performance improvement investments that would support increased tariffs to certain classes of customers especially during the pandemic.
In his remarks, President of Senate, Ahmad Lawan noted that
it was obvious that the DisCos have no capacity at the moment to supply Nigerians power.
He also added that the GenCos have their own their challenges in generating electricity.
According to him, it was not a good commentary to continue to give them money, noting that the operators were now private business.
“The way it is, I think there is need to review this privatisation and see what has really happened, because something is certainly not right,” Lawan said.
Senate thereafter adjoined sitting to Tuesday, June 2,2020.